Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


    Me. Standing outside the Irish Famine Memorial
on NYC's Waterfront.


Also, this week, I am offering my short, “The Sleeping Beauty Mystery”, Free on from 10/27-10/31.


Monday, May 13, 2013

61 Things You Should Know About Hoboes

One of my children ( I won't say which one out of respect for their privacy) recently lost a 
career-type job due to the economic 'recession'. His job loss made him turn to a job he's had
over the years as a bartender at a really popular restaurant and where he has become, 
over the seven  years he's been there, an important part of the personality of the place. 
Educated, and experienced now in business, he came back shamefaced that he couldn't make
a go of it in the insurance field. 

"Nobody works harder," I told him. "It's not your failing that people can't afford to buy alot of 

insurance. We saw a documentary the other night about people who were ordinary Americans
before this depression (I think they're fudging by not saying so.) who now live in woods and 
gather around campfires..."

"Like the '30's," my son finished my thought.

Then yesterday, Mother's Day, my husband and I went to the local theatre and saw Matthew 

Maconaghey in his latest film, "Mud".  Something along the lines of "Winter's Bones", which is 
an award-winning film with Jennifer Lawrence from two years ago, this featured Matt Maconaghey
 in the role of an underdog rover by the name of Mud. What a name! He tells two boys who find him
along the river where he's hiding from the law, "I'm not a bum, I'm a hobo. I'm willing to work!"
Excellent movie! Go see it!

However, my point is, it seems hoboes are becoming fashionable once again. I spotted an older

post from BUZZ FEED tonight by staff member Matt Stopera and the link to it is at the top of 
the page, under the Jimmie Rodgers You Tube video. Titled, "Things I Learned at the National Hobo
Convention", it is one of the best feature stories I've read in a long time. Matt Stopera is respectful in his
open appreciation of the Hoboes he stays with in Britt, Iowa last summer for their annual convention.
I hope you enjoy it. 

Click the link and go to the story now.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Joseph's Day Today!

Above is the link to a video telling the once famous story about the swallows coming back to Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day. It's one more miracle credited to him.

My writing seems to gravitate to discussions about saints lately….St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Joseph today…and we’ll get to St. Francis soon because the Franciscans play a major role in my book, Angel’s Requiem. Not to mention our new Pope took the name ‘Francis’ in his honor.

A quick note about St. Joseph’s Day. Yes, today, March 19, is the saint’s feast day on the Catholic calendar. Again, the cardinals in Rome have elected a Pope, this time from South America, but, still, Pope Francis is Italian by ethnicity. St. Joseph the Worker (as Italians call Jesus’ father) is a very popular saint among Italians. Could it be the reason Pope Francis chose his feast day to be installed as Pope? If so, that is certainly consistent with his love of the little man.
St. Joseph is regarded as a very powerful intercessor with Jesus. Believers credit him with providing employment and protecting the worker while he labors. Believers also trust him to protect them from the dangers of war, fire and poison. I’m sure he is enjoying more popularity than ever these days with the world as it is.

When I was a girl, Italians in our school took off from school for St. Joseph’s Day and had a traveling feast. Going from one neighbor or relative to another, they ate an ongoing selection of Old World foods that took days to prepare.  I’ve often given them credit for their national pride, especially after being bombarded by the enormous ethnic chest pounding by the Irish the whole previous week because March 17, two days earlier, is St. Patrick’s Day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day! A Bit of Music, A Bit of Food and Drink and a Story to Tell You!

Sl'ainte  and Happy St. Patrick's Day to you! This past week, I bought the makings for the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal, corned beef and cabbage, at my favorite grocery store, Shop-Rite, part of a chain of stores here in New Jersey. The manager moved a cold case up to the store front where the customers couldn't miss it. Inside was P.J. O'Reilly's corned beef brisket with flavor packets, only $1.99 a pound. Next to the case, in a bin were heads of cabbage, only 7 cents a pound. (I later researched it best I could, and for the life of me, I can't find '7 cents' as a price for cabbage. Maybe in the 50's, who knows?) So, I winked, with my finger touching the side of my nose, threw some gold dust at the manager to divert him, and stocked my cart with my St. Patrick's Day items before he could come to his senses and raise the prices.
Talk about Irish hospitality! Or… Shop-Rite's case, Italian hospitality, because this huge chain of stores is owned by the Inserra family.  These savvy folks never miss a holiday, or national event. I remember 2008 when the stock market crashed, Shop-Rite lined up flats of tomato sauce and canned tomatoes, bins of spaghetti - again, at rock bottom prices. Their trademark Shop-Rite coffee, an excellent brand, was priced low and stayed very low for a few years afterward.
I bought  P.J. O'Reilly corned beef last year and followed a simple recipe for superb results. Below is this recipe for succulent, buttery corned beef:
Turn the oven to 325 degrees
Place  2 pound corned beef brisket in a baking pan and fill with twelve ounces of beer. Many recipes say to use Guinness Stout. You don't have to. I had Yuengling on hand. I'm a Coal Cracker, as I said in my Valentine's Day story about the Pennsylvania miners, and Coal Crackers' favorite beer is America's oldest, Yuengling. I used it last year and the beef was delectable.
I added the full packet of flavoring and covered the pan securely with tin foil.
Cook for two hours and then add potatoes and raw cabbage and carrots, and some onions. Cook for another hour. Slice and serve.
Now, you've had music, dancing and food and drink. Next, I have a story to tell you. My story excerpt is part of a work in progress, its working title is 'Wherever the Wind May Blow' and takes place in Ireland in the year 1814. Enjoy! If you want a notification when the full story is published, leave your name and email at my mail:

                     Lakes of Killarney

he sky was a bit overcast but the air was calm as the Desmonds left their farm in Cloughereen.

It was harvest time and today was Fair Day in Killarney. This was one of the high points of life in rural Ireland back at the turn of the 19th century. Da took the entire family by wagon from Cloughereen to Killarney town. Matilda, their prodigious milking cow was tethered to the wagon. Mother’s raspberry pie was wrapped in good linen and placed in a wooden box for safekeeping at her feet. Granny held the beautiful quilt she and Mother had worked on these past months. Ailean didn’t know why, but Matilda, the quilt and the pie all held an extreme importance to her family in the competitions this year

Once at the fair, Da led Matilda over to the animal husbandry court.

“Look, there’s Virginia McGee,” Granny whispered to Mother. “Let’s enter our quilt and take a look at hers. It won’t compare, of course, but I’m curious.”

“Girls, stay together, and Ailean, stay with your friends while we enter our goods in the competition. Remember, stay on the main fairway.” As Ailean nodded, Mother and Granny left her with her little sister, Beatrice.

          Beatrice walked alongside Ailean as they stopped at the vendors for sweets and trinkets and played a carnival game or two. She guided the eight year old to the teeter totters and swings and foot-propelled merry go round. While little Beatrice rode with the other little ones on the merry go round, Ailean craned her neck to look for friends she knew. And one new friend she wanted to know a bit more….Brennan McGee.

          An old tinker biddy suddenly stood off to her side, coming as if out of nowhere and Ailean stepped back in surprise as the woman caught her attention.

Crooking her knobby long forefinger, the old granny tinker, dressed in filthy rags and a bonnet pulled forward down onto her forehead, leaving the rest of her face in the shadows, motioned Ailean over to her with the words, “Young miss, would you like to have your fortune told? Only tuppence.”

Ailean turned away from the old crone as if preparing to run from fire! How often had Mother and Grandma told her fortune tellers were bogus and inspired by the Devil? How often had the parish priest stood at his podium and condemned fortune telling, declaring it a very serious sin?

“Feed an old lady, miss. Tuppence will buy some bread and tea. Just a wee amount and it would be an act of kindness.” The old crone held out her palm in supplication.  Ailean felt sympathy for the poor old lady, whose clothes were in tatters. Whatever else might not be true, surely she is telling the truth when she says she is hungry! It can’t hurt to give her some money without hearing the fortune. With that, she placed tuppence in the woman’s palm and turned toward her friends.

As she walked away, she heard, “Two predictions I have for you, pretty miss, with my thanks! First, you will meet your true love today. That you already know, but again you don’t know. Second, a mighty wind blows our way. Does it promise ill or good— only you decide.” Ailean looked at the sky, the day’s sun poking through the overcast clouds in the midst of the calm, July day, typical for Killarney at this time of year. So much for fortune tellers.

          “Say, Ailean, over here! Come have some cider.” It was Brennan McGee, the man she’d most hoped to see today.

“Beatrice, I’ll be just a minute. Stay where you are. I can see you and then we’ll get some lunch.” She didn’t have to go more than fifty feet to where he stood in a group of Killarney youths. He stood when she approached. At twenty-two years old, he was a full grown man, standing six feet tall.

He was broad-shouldered and had long, powerful legs and a broad chest that filled out his collarless white muslin shirt, open to the chest to reveal a powerful torso. His deep blue eyes were devilish and Ailean’s heart went thump-at-thump when she looked into them. Her heart stirred and warmth expanded across her chest.  He had arrived from America months ago and when she had seen him at the church with his aunt on his first Sunday in Killarney, she set out to get Brennan McGee.

 “Luv, you look beautiful!” Though the two had never talked except for greeting each other, still, he spoke so familiarly, Ailean knew he felt as she did. He reached out his hand, and she extended hers. Before he held her delicate white hand, he briefly touched her arm, extending his long, thick fingers downward from her forearm to her hand, giving off such warmth and strength that Ailean was magnetically drawn into his embrace as he encircled her waist now and held her firmly. She blushed at the same time and looked around to make sure Da was nowhere in sight. Brennan would be done for if he was. No matter at all to Da if Brennan was the nephew of  Widow McGee and here from the States.

 For a bit, Ailean and Brennan sat and chatted with the group of young people. Then, it came time for lunch.

 Brennan whispered in her ear: “Let’s separate and take a stroll.” The pressure of his hand was very firm against her elbow. She couldn’t have said ‘no’ if she wanted to. Ailean had longed to hear such words since she had laid eyes on Brennan. Suddenly,  she knew he would be hers, now and forever.  She was sure he felt the same as she did.  Fleetingly, she thought, the old lady was right!

He held his hand very firmly around her waist, and drew her ever closer to him as we walked the lane at the fair, then just outside its periphery until they approached a series of town buildings, one of which had a narrow alleyway. She began to feel, just for a moment, a sense of alarm. She quickly stuffed that feeling down deep inside. That was a mistake, for it was her intuition telling her she was going too close to the fire.

 “Come, my love,” Brennan whispered to her. “Come here into the alleyway. I have something to ask you.” Without speaking further, he took her hand and pulled it and her into the narrow passage. Pressing her against the wall of a brick building, he leaned in over her and his chest pushed against her breast, setting her heart to thump-at-thump-at-thump! His full lips first grazed hers teasingly, and then he set to kissing her in a circular motion and then he kissed her firmly until her breath stopped for a second as she thrilled to feel his mouth on hers.  She wrapped her arms around him tightly to draw him closer to her. Ta-thump-at-thump! At that, Brennan pressed his mouth harder and harder against hers, and at her back, his hands that had held hers in seeming affection, now clenched tight against the small of her back so that she was caged. Confused and light-headed, Ailean flailed wildly at her assailant. Still, he held her in his angry grasp. Now her heart beat like it would pound itself right out of her chest. A sudden burst of power surged through her, and in a flash, Ailean had pushed out against his arms with hers and she freed herself

“You mustn’t,” she cried as she choked in terror.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” His arm reached out and grabbed hers roughly, and pulled her back into the alleyway. “You are mine. I know you love me. I know you do. Since I first saw you, I made up my mind that you would be mine.” So spoke the man she thought, however briefly, would be the love of her life. He spoke to her roughly and harshly and with an air of authority she realized could mean he would enforce his desires any way he had to. She started to scream, but he put his big hand over her mouth. She kicked and pulled away with all her might, but his strong arms and hands held hard against her flesh, where before he had used them to try to seduce her in a most inviting manner.

Just then, as he was dragging her further and further down the alleyway, she heard little Beatrice. “Ailean, Ailean, where are you? We have to find Mother and Da. I’m hungry. Where are you?”

She bit Brennan’s hand. He drew back with a venomous look on his face. “You!” and he back-handedly slapped her. She fell against the iron railing leading to some steps to a basement of an establishment. His leg got caught in the spokes of the railing. Still, Brennan kept dragging her. He let go of her mouth because he needed his hands to pull her harder and harder. Involuntarily, now, she let out a scream of agony.

“Help! Help me!” Ailean sank after the effort.

Beatrice appeared at her side. “You awful man, you. I’m going to tell your aunt what you’re doing. You’re hurting Ailean!” And with that, Beatrice started to whoop and holler and set up such a racket, it would  wake the dead. By that time, the local musical band from O’Halleran’s  had set up to play in the Town Square, and the strains of an Irish reel drowned out her pleas. Mobilized to protect her little sister, Ailean  got to her feet, and struggled free of the railing. She grabbed Beatrice’s hand and fled.

Gasping from his efforts, Brennan just shouted after her, “Later, my love. You and I aren’t finished yet.”

As Ailean and Beatrice struggled toward the square, a sudden wind blew in, blowing the tablecloths from the fair tables.  The grass bent to the ground blade by blade, a sudden rain drenching the town for a few moments, in time with the wind. The sky above darkened as if to warn of a hurricane, and everybody ran for cover. Five minutes later, it all disappeared. Silence. As if it had never happened. Ailean and Beatrice came out from under the awning of the clothier.

Excerpt from a story in progress, its working title ‘Wherever the Wind May Blow’. Copyright 2011. This story may not be reproduced in part or whole without author's permission.